Anna talks about Maria Marigliano Caracciolo's beautiful collection of bespoke book-shaped clutches.

In a fashion industry that is searching for ways to satisfy an ever increasing number of shoppers with a conscience, there has been resurgence in popularity for brands with a heritage, a history, or made from handcrafted and traditional skills.

We are all being encouraged to buy less but buy quality, to cut down on fast fashion and invest in pieces that will not only last, but be loved and worn for many years to come.

A brand that I often find myself talking about and suggesting to friends is By M. Launched by Maria Marigliano Caracciolo in 2013, her beautiful collection of bespoke book-shaped clutches is a wonderful and unique idea. I regularly spot her customers from all over the world at events (of course to unsuspecting passes by, with what looks like a normal book tucked under the arm).

Just like the traditionally leather-bound books of the past, all By M. collections are handcrafted in a traditional Neapolitan bookbindery workshop located in the courtyard of Palazzo Marigliano, Maria’s historical family home. Built in the 15th century, and situated on the ancient Via San Biagio dei Librai – which is Italian for “The Street of Book Sellers”. The city of Naples has a very long tradition in bookbinding and in the 17th century, the town’s flourishing intellectual circles attracted book merchants from all over Europe.

There is a ready made selection of book clutches on the website, or should you wish to carry your favourite title - a full customisation service for bespoke book-clutches is available. Each detail will be tailored to the client’s wishes: book title, colours, fabrics, decorations, stamping, side page and ex-libris quote.

It takes the artisans six to eight hours to create one book clutch by using the original, 16th century techniques of bookbinding, leather colouring, stamping and restoration - using the finest leather, Italian silks, parchment and gold leaf. Maria personally handpicks the leathers, silks and other fabrics from trusted providers. The insides of every book clutch are lined with silk moiré and include a removable pochette. A magnetic closure is smartly concealed within the book’s pages.

Last week I went to see a special preview of the newest collections – and Maria has taken her creativity to the next level by launching ‘By M Home collection’ comprising of hand-crafted table trays, table mats and desk organisers. All inspired and with imagery of the 18th century “Italian Journey” – a cultural concept whereby famous artistic figures travelled to South Italy to experience the cultured Mediterranean area.

There is also now a ‘By M Wear’ collection of ready-to-wear items: silk scarves, handkerchiefs and pocket squares.

I have seen customers of By M carrying Peter Pan, Lolita, Anna Karenina, The Jungle book, The Great Gatsby... so I will be pondering the vast options for my book title of choice over Christmas, ready to place the order and tuck it under my arm for 2019 events.

December 2018